In this article we’ll be addressing the merits of dynamic stretching and debunking the myths of static stretching.

Whether you are a weekend warrior hiking extraordinaire, a pickleball player, or an ultra trail runner, taking care of your body is an important part of staying injury free. To help with that, we at Alpine Fit want to set the record straight and answer the age-old question: Should I be stretching before I exercise?

Static vs. Dynamic Stretching

Over the past 20 years, there’s been a plethora of research done on stretching. As it currently stands, studies have shown that holding a stretch statically for greater than 60 seconds results in a decrease in muscle recruitment, strength, and power. Generally speaking, holding static stretches for longer than one minute before exercise can lead to muscular deficits and therefore injury. Holding static stretches for shorter periods of time, such as 10-30 seconds, doesn’t seem to have as much of an effect on muscular properties.

Why Dynamic Stretching

If static stretching causes muscle inhibition, why would someone do that before asking their body to exercise and perform? Beats me! Take it from a doctor of physical therapy: Dynamic stretching is the way to go when preparing your body for activity – specifically a few dynamic stretches paired with some loaded exercises, which make up a well rounded dynamic warm-up.

What is Dynamic Stretching?

A dynamic stretch is pretty self explanatory: it involves stretching your muscles in different directions and incorporating more movement. So instead of holding one stretch for 60 seconds, with dynamic stretching we instead move into a stretch and hold it for only about 5-10 seconds before moving out of that range of motion. Below I get into my top 2 lower and upper body dynamic stretches, so keep reading! 

Benefits of Dynamic Stretching

If you pursue a more dynamic style when preparing for exercise, you are increasing blood flow to your muscles and therefore increasing temperature. Studies have shown that a 1 degree celsius increase in muscle temperature correlates to a 2-5% increase in muscle power.

Dynamic stretching also increases the range of motion within a muscle. This means a dynamic warm-up will not only increase the range of motion in your muscles, but will also lead to an increase in muscle recruitment, strength, and power. All these factors come together to give us the biggest benefit of a dynamic stretch and warm-up routine; reduced risk of injury!

My Pre-Activity Recommendation

Before activity, I would recommend doing 4-5 dynamic stretches followed by 2-3 activity-specific dynamic loaded exercises.

For running, hiking, or any other lower body activity, this could include dynamically stretching your quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves followed by a couple dynamic loaded exercises for those muscles. Some examples include walking lunges, calf raises, planked clamshells, and step ups.

For a more upper body focused activity, consider dynamically stretching your lats, rotator cuff, scapular stabilizers, and thoracic spine, then get in a few dynamic loaded exercises. This combination of dynamic stretching and dynamic loading will make a well rounded “dynamic warm-up” and prime your body to perform while reducing your risk of injury.

But wait, is there any role for Static Stretching?

Static stretching does have its place within a workout routine, but it should not be done before activity. Ending your workout with a few static stretches can help improve muscle flexibility and recovery.

Lower Body Dynamic Stretches:

Posterior chain dynamic stretch: stretching your glutes, hamstrings, and calves

Greatest stretch in the world: hip flexors and quad on one side, glutes, calves and hamstring on other, thoracic spine rotational stability 

Upper Body Dynamic Stretches:

Around the worlds: thoracic spine, RTC, lats, scapular stabilizers,

Cobra into down dog: core, chest musculature, back, lats, scapular stabilizers

Want to find out more about how to prevent injury and feel strong doing activities you love? Download our FREE Injury Prevention guide!

If you’re curious about more ways to prevent injury, talking with a Doctor of Physical Therapy is a great place to start. 

Physical Therapy in Boulder, Colorado

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